I was going to write this blog earlier but so much has been going on since I got to Vietnam that I simply haven’t found the time. It’s really exciting and hectic and fun, and I’m looking forward to the Chinese New Years celebrations which are a really big deal in Vietnam.
The flight over was really easy, because I couldn’t sleep the night before. I ended up sleeping for most of the plane ride, and I only had a short 2 hour layover in Bangkok. Bangkok airport has really changed since the last time I visited. The last time I visited it was small and shabby, and they let people carry livestock on the airplanes. Now it’s big and modern and even has a Dairy Queen. I also noticed a lot of the eateries had “Mango and Sticky Rice” which I guess is a Thai dish, but we don’t eat it in Vietnam.
When I arrived at Hanoi airport the place was absolutely heaving. I have never seen so many people at an airport before. Everyone is flying back for the Chinese New Years and everyone has big families who all come to pick them up from the airport. I felt almost claustrophobic in the crowd. I managed to find my family only after face timing my brother and using the video call to try and pinpoint each other’s location. Quite a few of my family came and we all packed into a minibus to get home.
Since coming here a lot has already happened, some good, some bad. I think holidays are just a time where every event feels magnified. I spend every day with my brother, who is on holiday from work for the celebrations. He takes me around on his motorbike, and each day we have been visiting different family members on both our mum and dad’s side. I haven’t seen my brother in over 2 years but we are still very close and communicate well, although his english is poor and my vietnamese isn’t much better.
I have lots of cute nieces and nephews now as some of my cousins have grown up and married and had babies. Some babies I met before are now toddlers, and the toddlers are grade-schoolers and so on. I met my cousins Bo and Ku who I lived with when I was 10 and they were 8 and 6. They are now 20 and 18. It’s so strange seeing them grown up as adults when I remember the three of us running around playing tag.
We all went out for coffee in the evening last night which was really fun. Coffee culture is a big thing in Vietnam, but different to the starbucks type coffee we have in the west. It feels a lot more sociable. Everyone goes to the cafes and sits and booths or tables and socialise, the coffee is really just a drink you have whilst you talk. We sat on cushions on the floor with a low table and ate sunflower seeds with our coffees.
I had Cà Phê Trứng which is a Vietnamese egg coffee that I’ve never heard of before. It’s Vietnamese coffee, which I find rich and sweetly fragrant but actually quite bitter, with an egg yolk that’s been whipped with condensed cream to create this sweet foamy frothy top. You stir it all in and you end up with a very rich, sweet coffee. I’m pretty sure this recipe will make it’s way to trendy coffee shops in the west in no time, and I look forward to it.
Today I had lunch with a monk. He is a friend of my brother, and not much older than us. However being a monk is a highly revered job and I was quite nervous. I’m always nervous around monks in Asia actually, the culture around them is very different to Priests in the west. When speaking to a monk you refer to him as Thầy, which I’m not sure what the translation is. He calls you “Child” but in the informal way (the way your parent would call you) and although he was young, he called everyone child and everyone referred to themselves as child when addressing him. It was strange seeing the 40 year old owner of the vegan monk restaurant refer to herself as child towards someone no older than 25.
At first I didn’t really speak much, because I was unsure of how to refer to myself. He was very kind though and allowed me to call myself “em” which means younger person. Thinking about it, it was probably very rude of me to do so, but he was very kind. Although he was young, he had this really amazing aura. He was very elegant and refined. Everything from his speech to his eating movements, he was graceful and calm. I’ve never seen someone use chopsticks so beautifully before.
My body is still a little jetlagged but I’m actually doing ok. I’m going to sleep now, and I hope I’ll be able to cam soon this week if I can find some spare time. I’ll be updating you all on my trip though this month.